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Up and Over

Posted August 11, 2013

PART 15 (DAYS 33-35): “How’s everything here?” I asked Chris, the manager at Southern Laughter Lodge, when I arrived back in Queenstown for a day in order to catch a homeward bound flight early the following morning.

“Oh, it’s quiet. It’s finally slowing down,” he answered.

“Oh, is the ski season over?”

“No, the season can go all the way until October,” he told me. “But all the Aussie kids have gone back to university.”

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A Dinosaur In The Tetons

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted July 03, 2011

PART 9 (DAY 11):  “So you just want to climb?” asked Jim, the veteran rock climbing guide that Cheryl and I had hired to take us up a natural wall in the Teton mountain range. 

“Yeah, I just want to get out there,” Cheryl answered.  My fellow road tripper was actually one of the friends that originally got me into rock climbing — even before my Big Trip — and this was to actually be our first time together climbing outside, minus an ice climbing trip we did a while back.  “I haven’t really climbed in two years, so I’m a bit rusty,” she admitted.  Back in the day, she could have led the climb herself and spared us the combined $350 Exum Guides fee (most of that going to insurance I assumed), but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry when you’re climbing in the region of “America’s Matterhorn.” 

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More Than Six Percent

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted July 01, 2011

PART 8 (DAYS 8-10):  “In real camping so to speak, you leave your car and go out [camping], but here the park is so big.  So it’s like, what’s the point of camping if you still need your car [to get around]?” I wondered aloud as we drove out of the Canyon campground for our daily excursion within Yellowstone National Park.  The nearest shower facility from our tent was half a mile away (which is doable if you have the luxury of time; we drove), but that’s nothing when you consider the fact that YNP is bigger than your average park — about the size of the states Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  Camping was our only option within the park due to the high demand of accommodations reserved months in advance; if we had planned way in advance, we might have stayed in YNP’s other options (all operated by the private hospitality company Xanterra): lodges, cabins, and even the fancy hotel in the historic Fort Yellowstone village of old military houses.  (Camping is fun too though — it’s nature after all — but perhaps not when it’s 40°F at night, there’s still snow on the ground, and you didn’t pack enough clothes.)

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Cowboy Country

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 30, 2011

PART 7 (DAYS 8-10):  While a small part of Yellowstone National Park extends into Montana and Idaho, most of it lies in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, a state with the icon of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco on its license plates.  The state is in cowboy country after all — the wild, wild west — with landscapes that have inspired classic Westerns in the mountains, even before cowboys were outed as being gay on Mount Brokeback.  Regardless of sexual orientation, cowboys have always been associated with not cows, but horses — the mode of transportation before railways and RVs — and it was with those domesticated animals that we rode around to get a different perspective of the park that you can’t get from a car or the YNP bus.

“This is Jasper,” one of the horse wranglers said, introducing Cheryl to her horse of the day. 

“Hi Jasper,” she said, petting her. 

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American Safari

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 28, 2011

PART 6 (DAYS 8-10):  It’s hard to think of being in the U.S.A. and going on a “safari” (outside of a Six Flags’ or other man-made drive-thru), since that Kiswahili word is often associated with game drives in Africa.  However, there is definitely an American Safari to be had in the wilds of the heartland; the only differences are that:

  • the breeds of antelope are different
  • instead of wildebeests, there are bison (a.k.a. buffalo)
  • there are a lot more fat people on tour
  • the game drive roads are paved
  • the prized trophy photo is not of a lion, but of a bear (both could bite your head off)
  • the name of the encompassing national park isn’t “Serengeti” or “Ngorongoro”, but “Yellowstone”


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Inside The Sculptor’s Studio

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 28, 2011

PART 5 (DAY 7):  There should be no debate on what the most iconic landmark is in South Dakota: Mount Rushmore, the massive rock sculpture carved into a granite cliffside in the Black Hills, standing 60 feet tall (10 times bigger than the makeshift plaster one at Wall Drug), 500 feet above its base. The collective faces of American presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Honest Abe Lincoln have become a symbol of America, so much that Mount Rushmore has served as a setting in popular movies, from North By Northwest, Hitchcock’s classic tale of espionage, to Team America: World Police, the South Park creators’ marionette-driven satirical musical.  Even if you haven’t seen Team America, you can’t help but think of the title of one of its musical numbers when standing in Rushmore’s presence: “America… Fuck yeah!”

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“Roughing It” In The Badlands

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 25, 2011

PART 4 (DAY 6): Cheryl woke up in the passenger seat after a nap, only to see a peculiar billboard going by: a funny cartoony illustration of a hot dog wearing a sombrero, mascot of a place called “Señor Wiener.” On the billboard he said, “You know you want me.”  Soon afterwards, we saw a billboard inviting motorists to see the Rare Rhinos of Africa.

“Where are we?” she wondered, as if she still dreaming.

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1 out of 10,000

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 22, 2011

PART 3 (DAY 5):  “It’s so hot,” Cheryl said.  “And I thought the northern route would have been cooler.”  It was only about 10 a.m. in the morning, and the sun was beating down on us hard already.  Coincidentally enough, during our quick morning tour of downtown Chicago, the classic rock tune “Summer In The City” came on — and on the day of the summer solstice too.

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Back In Time For Beer

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 21, 2011

PART 2 (DAY 4): “All we need is a flux capacitor,” I said, taking a picture of all the electronic gadgets hooked up in the car.  Road tripping sure has come a long way since the days of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise in Kerouac’s On The Road; in our ride we had a GPS navigator, an EZ-Pass, an iPhone 4, a Droid, and a Verizon 4G/3G mobile hotspot serving a WiFi connection for our two laptops. All of this was powered through the 1-to-3 power outlet adapter (that fortunately swiveled upwards so we could still use the handbrake). Cheryl was concerned we’d drain the car battery, but I figured we’d be okay if our long drives were charging it.

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Last Adventures On The Atlantic

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea"
Posted June 19, 2011

PART 1 (DAYS 1-3):  “Do you think we’re going to hate each other in two weeks?” my newest travel companion, albeit longtime friend Cheryl asked me.  She was referring to the epic coast-to-coast road trip we were about to embark on, from New York to San Francisco, one that we would spread out over a period of two weeks and change.

“I dunno,” I answered.  “Maybe.”

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Leftover Turkey

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 13, 2011

DAYS 8-9: “We’re done here,” I said to Jeff (imitating Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama on Battlestar Galactica), as we checked out of our room at the Orange Motel.  It was a rather abrupt checkout; we slept in until noon after a night of boozing in Olympos — and the staff was already knocking on our door.  Jeff was hungover and was waiting to “sweat it out,” while my strategy was to “throw it down” (as oppose to “throw it up” if you know what I mean).  It’s a post-drinking thing I do that keeps me from getting hangovers.

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Pirates Of The Mediterranean

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 12, 2011

DAYS 6-7 (PART 2):  Olympos in Turkey may be a Mediterranean beach destination almost exclusively full of backpacking hippies and Australian kids on gap year, but it’s not the only place on the “Turkish Riviera” that has been overrun with tourists from another country.  We’d heard that whole towns down the coast are almost exclusively British or German, and Kemer, the closest big town near Olympos and Çirali, was almost completely Russian. 

“A lot of Russians here,” I noticed and told to Ilmas, a non-Russian, Turkish resident of Kemer, who had picked Jeff and me up at the Shell station along the main coastal highway.

“Too many,” he said with an expression that was in between a smile and frown.

“It’s the Russian Riviera,” Jeff said.  (Later we heard rumors that some tourists toted tattoos only found on members of the Russian mafia.)

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The Post-Backpackers

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 12, 2011

DAYS 6-7 (PART 1):  “The [Lonely Planet] description doesn’t make it sound good,” Jeff told me, flipping through the pages about our next destination, as we sat in one of two minibus shuttles that took us on the hour-long ride from Antalya — one of Turkey’s southwestern coastal main cities — to the popular beach town of Olympos.  We simply decided to go there without much thinking ahead, based on it being a “place to go” — plus my Turkish friend Izge back home had recommended it to me on Facebook. 

Lonely Planet: The former hippy-trail hot spot has gentrified considerably in past years and is today overcrowded and institutionalized… But love it or hate it, Olympos still offers good value and an up-for-it party atmosphere…  Be extra attentive to personal hygiene while staying at Olympos.  In summer in particular the huge numbers of visitors can stretch the camps’ capacity for proper waste disposal beyond its limit, so be vigilant in particular about where and what you eat.  Every year some travellers wind up ill.

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Lost? There’s A Turk For That.

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 11, 2011

DAYS 4-5 (PART 2): “Where are you going?” asked a lone Turkish guy who seemingly came out of nowhere at a deserted road junction between towns in the Cappadoccia region. Jeff and I were on our motorbike scooters, and were a bit lost.

“[Is this the way to Kaymakli?]” Jeff asked him.

“Mazi,” he said, naming a town that, according to our map, was on the way to Kaymakli.

“And Kaymakli?”

“[No, Mazi this way,]” he replied, pointing in one direction before pointing towards the other way of the T intersection. “[Kaymakli, this way.]”  (Later we learned that a lot of our confusion was due to the tourist map we got from the rental place, which apparently wasn’t accurate or to scale.)

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Easy Riders and Hard Ons

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 09, 2011

DAYS 4-5 (PART 1): “Do we have to make a reservation for the testi kebabs?” I asked Mustafa, our Turkish go-to guy from the Kelebek/Sultan/Coco Cave Hotels in Gorème — three separate “cave hotels” that shared facilities built in and around the wild rock formations of central Turkey’s Cappadoccia region.  I was inquiring about the testi kabab, a regional dish that we’d heard about and seen around town — meats and vegetables stewed for at least three hours before serving in its individual clay pot — with the gimmick that you smash the pot and then eat the contents inside.

“We don’t make testi kebabs,” he told us with a bit of disdain, representing the Lonely Planet-recommended Seten restaurant (coincidentally down the stairs from our hotel’s reception), which specialized in real regional Anatolian cuisine.  “We only make local food.  Testi kebabs are for tourists.  We don’t eat that.”  It was a pretty convincing argument coming from someone who sold activity packages to tourists to do things that locals definitely don’t do, like go hot air ballooning in the area at almost $250 USD/hr.

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It’s Not Racist If You’re Already Asian

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 06, 2011

DAYS 2-3 (PART 2):  “[We should go to the Asian side,]” Meg suggested to Chinese-American Jeff and Filipino-American me.  “I feel like you two should feel at home,” she joked.

“I’m not even going to call you a racist for that,” I said, smiling.

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Teenager Talk On The Sexy Side Of The City

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 06, 2011

DAYS 2-3 (PART 1): “It’s so big,” Jeff said, unconsciously setting up his own punchline as we stood marveling inside the beautifully cavernous Aya Sofia. “I remember Alex saying that after it was built, nothing was bigger in the world in a thousand years.”  He paused before saying a bisyllabic “Hmm-mm?” with a rising question inflection at the end — a sort of European version of a “That’s what she said” joke that he’d picked up in Germany watching soccer with Spanish commentators, who used the phrase to imply any innuendo on the playing field.

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Turkey Jerky

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 05, 2011

DAY 1: “Trinidad?” the passport officer asked me upon landing in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

“Yes,” I answered with a smile.

“First name, ‘Erik?’”

“That’s me.”

He looked me up and down with suspicion.  I didn’t know what the hold up was; Corinne, my seatmate and fellow Brooklynite on the 9 1/2-hr flight went right through in fifteen seconds.  We both had our Turkish visas in our passports, which we purchased on another line right before the passport one, so that couldn’t have been the issue.  I suspected that perhaps it might have been something to do with the Israeli stamp I had on one of my pages, although I’d read that it shouldn’t be an issue.

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Turkey Sandwich

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey"
Posted June 02, 2011

IT’S BEEN HALF A YEAR since the last Global Trip adventure already, which means it’s about time to go out and see/blog some part of the world again, if only for nine days.  Since I came back from Chile and Easter Island last January, it’s been six months of ups and downs with freelance employment, relationships, and everything else going on in my life — mostly stuff still going on for that other blog I have — one concerning food — which hopefully will be a published book by year’s end. 

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It’s Not A Lonely Planet

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 08, 2011

DAYS 18-19:  Fifteen moai.  Six travelers.  One stone platform.  Take two.

“Our sheik is leaving us,” Pattey told the rest of the girls in my “harem.”  It was true, it was my last day on Rapa Nui, but I still had all morning to wrap up loose ends, the main one being a photography session of the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki with them, since the plan had been botched the morning before.  The colors of the sky were different this time when the sun rose just above the ahu, with more blues peering from behind the clouds — not that it didn’t make for another spectacular show.  And if there wasn’t a good show, Pattey was prepared to make it one, this time bringing glow sticks from her bag of tricks.

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Just Another “Easter” Sunday

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 07, 2011

DAY 17 (PART 2):  “I’m amazed that this place hasn’t exploded with all of us here,” said newlywed Pattey, as we sat on the steps of Iglesia Hanga Roa, the island’s Catholic church that Sunday morning.  Traveling with a lesbian couple shunned by archaic doctrine, one might not think we’d end up in such a place, but Pattey was keen on seeing what it was like from an anthropological perspective — a throwback to her Irish roots.  Besides, Kati had mentioned to me that the guidebook recommended Sunday mass for its scene, with all its lively singing.  Anyway, there was nowhere else to go because pretty much all of Hanga Roa was there at church, including all the tourists around it seemed — if not, they could hear it all on the loudspeaker throughout town.  Perhaps attendance was high because the chisel-chested beefcake local surfer stud that all the girls swooned over was there, helping his grandmother.

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Early to Head, Early to Rise

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 07, 2011

DAY 17 (PART 1):  “It’s like we’re in a vortex or something,” Leigh-Anne said at 8:30am, without referring to the odd time-warping things that happen on Lost (which I never really followed).  She was referring to the fact that both of our iPhone 4’s alarm clocks mysteriously didn’t go off at 5:30am as planned, even though they were set and hadn’t failed us before.  (Later we learned that it was due to a 2011 bug on Apple’s popular smartphone, and that there were many others in the world annoyed about the major wake-up malfunction.)

Our reasoning for getting up at 5:30 was like most reasons to get up at stupid o’clock: to see the sunrise.  We all had planned to get up before dawn, drive over to Ahu Tongariki, site of the fifteen moai, just in time to see the famous stone sculptures backlit by a dramatic sky.  I had woken around 4am when I heard a downpour, but went back to bed, confident I’d be awaken again in an hour and a half so that we could assess the situation — but it was Apple’s fault that I got an additional hour of unwanted shut-eye.  (Goddamnit, Steve Jobs.)

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From Head To Wed

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 07, 2011

DAY 16 (NEW YEAR’S DAY): The first day of the year is always a time to let go of the past and make resolutions that, let’s face it, usually go by the wayside by the end of January.  It is also a time of renewal and new beginnings, and for some of us on Rapa Nui, there would be an exchanging of vows by day’s end.

“Alright, permiso to rock,” Renee requested as we made way to Rano Raraku near the other end of Rapa Nui from Hanga Roa.  I had met my “harem” early that morning at Kaimana Inn for our first day of the car rental share that bound us together, although already bonded from New Year’s celebrations (and the social lubricant of alcohol), we hardly needed a contract to keep our group intact.  The girls had packed up the SUV with parasols and beers — as well as Pattey’s bag of tricks — and soon we bid farewell to the Rapa Nui family who ran Kaimana, plus the little shy girl next door.

“Easter Island, twenty eleven baby… woo!” Leigh-Anne proclaimed as we started the first adventure of the new year.

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New Year’s On Easter (Island)

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 05, 2011

DAY 15 (NEW YEAR’S EVE): On the lonely day before Christmas Eve, I wondered if I would meet anyone to have a Feliz Navidad with, but I had totally lucked out in gradually assembling a motley crew with non-Die Hard-related John McClain.  When I woke up alone in Santiago on that December 31st, 2010, I again wondered if I would meet anyone for the next red-letter day, someone to kiss and ring in the New Year with. 

“Looks like the plane is full,” I said to the striking blonde sitting next to me on LAN Chile Flight 841, bound for airport designation “IPC.”  I had noticed her by the gate in Santiago’s airport; she stood out from the crowd of what appeared to be mostly American, British, French, and Chilean family groups, plus one big middle-aged/senior tour group from high-priced luxury outfitter Lindblad Expeditions.

“I thought no one would be here,” she answered me.  Both of us had wondered what type of people would fly to IPC on the morning of New Year’s Eve.  With the ice broken, we hit it off in a conversation for the upcoming flight across the Pacific to Isla de Pascua — translated in English as “Easter Island” — as I sat comfortably in Seat 32L. (“L” is for “Lucky.”)

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It’s Always Sunny In Patagonia

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 05, 2011

DAYS 13-14:  When the European explorers “discovered” three distinct rock formations in southern Patagonia in the late 19th-century, they were first known as “Cleopatra’s Needles.”  The trio of rocks were so admirable, they inspired others to come down to gaze upon them, and over a century later, I had come to make the pilgrimmage myself.  Over that century-plus period of time, the “needles” were renamed “Torres del Paine” — torres meaning “towers,” and paine meaning “blue” in the indigenous Indian language — and the park that surrounded them was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  The designation of being “blue” was due to the fact that in certain weather and lighting conditions, the towers do in fact have a blue hue.  However, they would change different colors depending on how the sun hit them — the most dramatic color shift at sunrise.

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